China Locks Down 20 Million As Deadly Virus Spreads

The Guardian reports:

Three Chinese cities with a total population of 20 million have been put on lockdown and Beijing has cancelled a number of major public events in an attempt to contain the spread of a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Authorities banned transport links from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, on Thursday, as well as the nearby central Chinese cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, suspending buses, subways, ferries and shutting the airport and train stations to outgoing passengers.

Meanwhile the state-run Beijing News said the capital had cancelled events including two well-known lunar new year temple fairs. Separately, the country’s railway operator, China State Railway Group, said passengers would be able to receive full refunds on tickets nationwide starting on Friday.

The Associated Press reports:

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, told The Associated Press in an interview at the WHO’s Beijing office. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”

Images obtained from inside Wuhan following the closure showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as residents stocked up for what could be weeks of relative isolation. That appeared to be an over-reaction, since no restrictions have been placed on trucks carrying supplies into the city.

Reuters reports:

State media reported highway toll booths around Wuhan were closing down, which would effectively cut off road exits. Guards were patrolling major highways, one resident told Reuters. Authorities in Huanggang ordered indoor entertainment venues including cinemas and internet cafes to close.

Authorities had confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths by the end of Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission said. Earlier, it said another 393 suspected cases had been reported. Of eight known cases worldwide, Thailand has confirmed four, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US have reported one each.